Making a Meaningful Difference
As perceptions of wellness expand, more students focus on improving their overall mental health.
Amid an on-going, global pandemic, it’s an especially trying time for our students, on and off campus.
“More of our students are looking for help,” Tara Tent says. She’s the director of counseling services in the Diana B. Torrey ’82 Health and Counseling Center on the St. Lawrence campus.
A record 500 St. Lawrence students, or more than 21% of the student body, engaged with counseling in the 2018-19 academic year (the most recent year for which data are available).
“There’s even greater demand now for counseling appointments,” Tent says. “We need to increase the availability of one-on- one sessions that we offer to students. And we want to create more opportunities for students to take part in on-campus wellness programming (nutrition, yoga, meditation, etc.) in the evenings and on weekends.”
What Can One Counselor Do?
The University wants to hire another trained and licensed mental health counselor who can work with students.
“Each interaction with a counselor can make a meaningful difference in a student’s life,” Tent says. “Needs vary, of course. Some students would like a patient, professional ear. Others might need on-going, 50-minute therapy sessions throughout their college years. We know one counselor can be the difference between a student thriving or simply surviving on campus.”
Over the course of a week, one counselor can interact with many students who are experiencing varying levels of mental health issues. These include anxiety, depression, personal crises, losses, academic stress, family problems, emerging mental health disorders, trauma, and relationship distress.
“In that same week,” Tent adds, “a counselor spends hours advocating for students in need.”
This involves collaborating with faculty and staff, and sometimes family members, to ensure each student’s experience can be more supportive at St. Lawrence. Counselors are also talking with students who are learning remotely and, in some cases, their local therapists to ensure mental health needs are being met.
The Power of Connecting
“As mental health needs increase across the country,” Tent says, “students are looking for a college experience that includes robust counseling and other services that help them manage their overall health.”
With another counselor, she adds, St. Lawrence could offer more wellness programming that helps students develop the skills vital for stress management, academic success, social competency, and lifelong resiliency. These factors also play a significant role in retaining students.
“We all want the kinds of human interactions—that feeling of really connecting with others—that are at the core of the St. Lawrence experience. These kinds of connections nourish us, our confidence, our abilities to give of ourselves, and become the people we want to be. The counseling services and other wellness programming that we offer helps students with all these things as they make their way through these uncertain times.”
More Opportunities for Student Wellness
In addition to offering students greater access to mental healthcare, counseling services is also looking to expand wellness programming.
These initiatives include:
• A peer-to-peer support program that helps interested students learn more about—and encourage more participation in—mental health awareness, self-care, and counseling services.
• A Wellness/Meditation room where students can reduce stress and learn how to incorporate effective, mental-health strategies into their daily lives. Open in the evenings and on weekends, a centrally located space on campus would let students explore meditation, restorative yoga, Tai Chi, and other practices, learn more about self-care, and get information about counseling—without the stigma that might be attached to seeking mental health services.
• Working with trained and licensed community members to provide a fuller range of wellness therapies to students on campus, like nutrition counseling, art and music therapies, restorative yoga, and other forms of programming.
To move forward with these initiatives on campus and expand mental healthcare and wellness programming for our students, we need support from Laurentians like you. To learn more about these services and make an immediate impact by expanding them, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.